AFTER his cross-country switch was confirmed yesterday Scotland's most-capped stand off, Craig Chalmers, revealed that it was only Glasgow Caledonians' offer of a two-year deal that had kept him in Scotland.

The 30-year-old, who has won 59 caps over the past decade, had been offered a similar length contract to stay at Edinburgh Reivers.

''I wasn't happy with what they were offering me,'' he said, ''so I wasn't going to be playing in Scotland until Glasgow Caledonians made me what was a pretty good offer.''

Chalmers had been approached by two English clubs, though he refused to identify them other than to say both will be taking part in next season's European Cup.

''I didn't want to go to England. After all, I've got three kids and don't want them growing up with English accents,'' he laughed. ''But I was preparing to go.''

Glasgow Caledonians' new head coach, Richie Dixon, said he was delighted with Chalmers' decision. ''I'm obviously conscious that

the spine of the team is very important,'' he noted.

Caledonians have now signed top-quality performers at full back in Glenn Metcalfe, half back with Chalmers and Andy Nicol and hooker, where Gordon Bulloch will be challenged by Gavin Scott.

Though injured for some time Gordon Simpson is also expected to return in time for the new

season, offering another hardened competitor and recognised decision maker in the back-row.

''The great thing is that the other players who are considering their futures can see clearly what we're planning,'' said Dixon.

Indeed, Chalmers said his

decision was eased by knowing that other established internationalists had joined and he indicated that he expects more to follow.

For example, while, like Gregor Townsend, Chalmers intends to work on his goal kicking, he noted that if, as he hopes, his

former Melrose team-mate Rowen Shepherd stays at Glasgow Caledonians competition for that job will be fierce.

''I'm hoping that other Scotland squad players will sign shortly,'' Chalmers said.

''There's a nucleus here that says Glasgow Caledonians are ambitious and, if they can hold onto Gordon Bulloch and Glenn Metcalfe, two of the hottest properties in the game right now, that tells its own story.''

Reivers, by contrast, have been relatively tardy in outlining their recruitment plans. But while admitting to disappointment at losing Chalmers' services their chief executive Nick Oswald remained confident yesterday of being able to sign most of those they have targeted.

Their unwillingness to offer Chalmers better terms indicates confidence that his international rival Duncan Hodge and Gala youngster Chris Paterson will both sign, Oswald confirming that talks are continuing with both.

''I don't mind admitting that we would like to be as advanced

with our negotiations as Glasgow Caledonians, but I'm sure we will have a comparable squad and will get the players we're trying to sign,'' he said.

q Five uncapped players - four of them backs - have been named in the Ireland side for next

Monday's opening tour match against New South Wales Country at Gosford.

They are centres Mike Mullins and Brian O'Driscoll, left wing Matt Mostyn, scrum-half Tom Tierney and lock Robert Casey. All will be making their first Ireland appearance in the senior international side.

With Dion O'Cuinneagain being rested, the captaincy has reverted to Keith Wood. Team:

G Dempsey (Terenure College); J Bishop (London Irish), M Mullins West Hartlepool), B O'Driscoll (UCD), M Mostyn (Begles Bordeaux); D Humphreys (Dungannon), T Tierney (Garryowen); R Corrigan (Lansdowne), K Wood Harlequins) capt., P Clohessy (Young Munster), J Davidson (Castres), R Casey (Blackrock College), D Corkery (Cork Constitution), A Ward (Ballynahinch), V Costello (St Mary's College).